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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Have Republicans Fixed the Economy Yet?

"Have Republicans fixed the economy yet?" That's the question every Democrat should ask, every time a reporter sticks a microphone in their face. GOP leadership has made it clear that they plan to take no responsibility for any of their actions, so that responsibility will have to be forced on them. Throughout this lame duck congress and on into the 112th, Republicans should own the economy. After all, they're responsible for the state it's in now. Of course, Republicans will ask when Democrats will stop blaming Bush for everything, but the answer to that one is easy: when it stops being Bush's fault. After all, Republicans have never really stopped blaming FDR for a whole raft of problems -- some real, most imagined -- so I think dems can go on blaming Bush until the economy is back on it's feet, at least.

Which is a problem for Republicans, because they seem committed to keeping the economy on its knees.

That video actually understates the severity of the consequence of failing to extend unemployment benefits. Associated Press reports that financial analysts predict that "annual economic growth could fall by one half to nearly 1 percentage point," that "up to 1 million more people could lose their jobs," and that "hundreds of thousands would fall into poverty."

"Look for homelessness to rise and food lines to get longer as we approach Christmas if the situation can't be resolved," says Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial told the AP. See, unemployment benefits are instant and automatic economic stimulus. Unemployed people buy things and that creates jobs. When those unemployed people stop buying things, then those jobs are no longer necessary and they evaporate. And so you have a feedback loop; the unemployed don't have money, so their demand is taken out of the marketplace and people lose jobs. This makes the job market more competitive, leading to even more long-term unemployed and, when this new batch of jobless workers' bennies run out, the whole problem amplifies. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But Republicans argue that this isn't true. People who are unemployed want to be unemployed, so they can live the easy life. This ignores the facts that unemployment claims are actually up, suggesting fewer jobs available, and that we weren't saddled with massive unemployment by the lazy before the economy crashed. In short, when it comes to matters economic, the GOP has everything bass-ackward, confusing cause and effect. No one demonstrates that better than GOP Rep. John Shadegg, who displayed a monumental economic ignorance in an interview with MSNBC's Mike Barnicle recently (emphasis mine):

BARNICLE: What about the fact that unemployment benefits pumped into the economy are an immediate benefit to the economy? Immediate…

SHADEGG: No, they're not! Unemployed people hire people? Really? I didn't know that.

BARNICLE: Unemployed people spend money Congressman, 'cause they have no money.

SHADEGG: Aha! So your answer is it's the spending of money that drives the economy and I don't think that's right. It's the creation of jobs that drives the economy... Actually, the truth is the unemployed will spend as little of that money as they possibly can. Job creators create jobs.

BARNICLE: Have you ever been unemployed? Have you ever been unemployed?

SHADEGG: Yes, I have.

BARNICLE: What did you do with the money? Save it?

Here's the part that really gets me; when he says, "Aha! So your answer is it's the spending of money that drives the economy and I don't think that's right." Anyone who says something that stupid shouldn't be allowed out of the house without a keeper. They're too brainless to be anything other than a danger to themselves and others. Shadegg shouldn't be a congressman, he should be a ward of the state. It's just so astoundingly, astonishingly wrong. And there's the "job creators" BS again. Employers don't create jobs, demand does. Employers supply jobs -- there's a difference. And we're about to see that difference demonstrated as reduced consumer demand from cashless, jobless workers starts choking off economic recovery. No tax cut in the world will ever get an employer to hire someone they don't need -- demand creates the need for those jobs. As I said, the GOP has everything bass-ackward. It's like they think "supply and demand" is a phrase from an incomprehensible alien dialect.

Now Republicans have decided to hold the Senate hostage until their economic flatearther demands are met. All 42 GOP Senators have signed a letter stating that they'll block everything unless the Bush tax giveaway to the top 2% is extended. Do I need to remind anyone that it was the wealthy who crashed the economy in the first place? Republicans would have Main Street pay for the sins of Wall Street, while having Wall Street reap all the rewards. Unemployed Main Street can feed their families with a tax cut -- while having no income to tax. Let them eat cake.

Of course, as Steve Benen points out, the Republican letter is an empty threat. "[N]ote the unstated truth behind the threat," he writes, "Republicans will block literally everything until they're satisfied, at which point, they'll try to block literally everything anyway." At every point up until now, the GOP has tried to stifle every effort to improve the economy. They aren't going to stop now.

So there you go. That's why Democrats should always be asking, "Have the Republicans fixed the economy yet?" Because the answer is always going to be, "No."

Republican economic incompetence will make sure of that.


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